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In Matthew Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed because they will be filled. This phrase comes from what we call “The Beatitudes”, which comes from a sermon that Jesus delivered popularly known as “The Sermon on the Mount”. There are 9 beatitudes in all and over time we might look at all of them, but today I just want to talk about this one, Beatitude #4 …
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”
A few things.
(1) First, let’s talk about the word “BLESSED”.
The Hebrew word for BLESSED is ASIR and the Greek word is MAKARIOS, both of which refer to an existing state of happiness or good fortune.
I tell you about these Greek and Hebrew words because those are the languages that the Bible was originally written in. The New Testament was written in GREEK and the Old Testament was written in HEBREW and in case you weren’t aware, there are lots of words in the Greek and Hebrew languages that are …
… With meaning and purpose and significance that they don’t always translate very well into our modern English language.
And so in order to dig deeper into the meaning of a passage of the Bible and get a better idea as to what the original author or speaker or whatever was talking about, sometimes it’s helpful to find out the meaning of a word they used to see if it has a deeper meaning than what it does in English.
Like these words for BLESSED – ASIR and MAKARIOS. They don’t just refer to someone who is blessed in the sense of …
Having good favor.
Having lots of stuff.
Having enough money.
Having no needs.
RATHER, they refer to someone who has an existing sense of happiness or joy or good fortune.
In other words, they refer to a sense of happiness that is ALREADY there.
Did you get that?
The sense of happiness in the blessed person is ALREADY there. It already exists. It’s already present. Before anyone came along or before anything was added to their life, they were happy and joyful, with a smile on their heart.
Again – it was ALREADY THERE.
The word 'BLESSED' refers to someone who has an internal sense of happiness ... no matter what. Do you? #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
So when Jesus (in the Beatitudes) says something like, “Blessed are the _________ for they will be _________”, He’s not saying that if you do A then you will get B.
We often THINK He is.
It kind of SOUNDS like He is.
… But He’s not.
Because according to the words ASIR and MAKARIOS, the person in question is …
You could say that there is a distinctive sense of joy buried deep down in the heart of the person that is always there.
So how does all of that fit into Beatitude #4 …
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.”
Right off the bat, let’s realize that the people Jesus is talking about (the people who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness) don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness SO THAT they can be filled.
Instead, the hungry and thirsty ALREADY HAVE a deep and internal sense of joy or happiness or blessedness or ASIR or MAKARIOS because they WILL be filled.
There is no question.
… And they know that to be true.
We’ll talk about what righteousness means in just a moment (and filled, too) and why that might be important for you and me, but the above statement is huge, right?
I mean, think about it:
The hungry and thirsty can have a deep and internal sense of joy or happiness or blessedness or ASIR or MAKARIOS because they can bank everything on the fact that they WILL be filled.
This means that …
I can be HAPPY.
You can be JOYFUL.
We can have SMILE on our heart.
… Not because I’m trying to earn some kind of fulfillment or because you think that your positive attitude will make things better or because we have this, that or the other thing … but because I know that the righteousness that God has bestowed on me in Jesus will open up the rain clouds of heaven and fill me up.
(2) Now let’s talk about HUNGER and THIRST.
Jesus’ listeners would have been extremely familiar with what it was like to be hungry and thirsty.
I was hungry and thirsty once. Not really; looking back on it, it’s not like I was starving or anything, but in the moment – I was really, REALLY hungry and thirsty.
Let me tell you about my “first world problem”.
In seminary I had to do an internship with the senior pastor of my church. He was a good man, but the internship was … interesting and semi-non-productive. To his credit, he had a lot on his plate.
A difficult elder board.
A confused deacon board.
A leadership team that didn’t really do all that much.
A church that was frozen solid in their ways.
Adjusting from moving from the Midwest to Bergen County, NJ.
And a big vision that nobody seemed to understand. He came in with fire in his eyes for all that God was going to do and left after all of the above stuff (and more) came falling on his shoulders.
Anyways, during my internship we took about 15 people on a missions trip to a church in the middle of Newark where we spent a week scraping and painting the walls of their main entrance.
It was dirty work and tiring work that required a lot of team work, preferably from a team that was much larger than ours.
Anyways, one day we were working all morning and all afternoon without much of a break and I was so thirsty and so hungry.
About halfway through the afternoon we got on a train and went to some random place in the middle of the city to observe people.
Yes, observe them.
Like, we sat on the curb and “people watched” to figure out what they were doing and thinking and going through and then we prayed for them. It was an interesting activity that would have probably been amazing had I been hydrated and not so hangry (hungry and angry – angry because I was hungry).
All I wanted was a bottle of water.
And a sandwich.
Or a slice of pizza from wherever that amazing pizza smell was coming from.
Looking back on it, though, it wasn’t really THAT big of a deal. Right? Like, at the time I would have said that I was “starving” and “dying of thirst” but the reality is that it didn’t even touch the level of hunger or thirst that some of the people in Jesus’ crowd had experienced in their lives.
In fact, to this day desert tribesmen in the Middle East refer to water as “the wine of heaven” because in the desert water can be …
And hard to come by.
Water was scarce, traveling was anything but easy, and everyone in Jesus’ crowd that day probably would have known of someone who had died because of a lack of food and/or water.
They knew what it was like to be really HUNGRY and really THIRSTY and so when Jesus said that those who HUNGER and THIRST for righteousness would be filled, they would have immediately thought about …
A time when THEY almost died of hunger or died of thirst.
A FAMILY MEMBER or a FRIEND who lost their life because of hunger or thirst.
The FEAR of drought.
The FEAR of famine.
… And would have imagined themselves hungering and thirsting for this thing called “righteousness” in the same way that they or their friend or their family member had hungered for food and thirsted for water.
It’s that kind of person, says Jesus, who is BLESSED …
… Becuase they will be filled.
Still with me?
(3) So, all of that said, let’s talk about RIGHTEOUSNESS.
What is righteousness? And what does it mean to be someone who hungers and thirsts for it like a dying man in a desert with nothing to eat and nothing to drink would hunger and thirst for food and water?
We often think of “righteousness” to mean some sort of good behavior, right? Like, if someone is righteous, that means they are …
… And so on and so forth – they do good or right things, their life is full of RIGHTeousness, marked by good and right things.
Even if we use it as a slang word as in, “duuuuuude. That is so RIGHTEOUS”, it means …
That is so good.
That is so great.
That is so amazing.
That is so right.
That is so perfect.
Good, Great, Amazing, Right, and Perfect … and it does mean these things, sort of, but it actually means a whole lot more.
If we dig back into the original languages that the Bible was written in, we find that the Hebrew word for righteousness is SEDAQA and the Greek word is DIKAIOUSYNE. Interestingly, the Hebrew word (SEDAQA) doesn’t refer to someone who is good or ethical or kind or loving or good or great or amazing, but rather it’s a term that is weighted and marked by the conduct of each party in a relationship.
The Greek/Hebrew word for RIGHTEOUS isn't an ethical term, but a relational term. @GlennSiepert #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
Let me explain.
In his book “Jesus Through Mediterranean Eyes“, Kenneth Bailey points out that …
Every relationship makes claims on conduct and the satisfaction of these claims (which issue from the relationship and in which alone the relationship can persist) is described by the term SADAQA.”
To simplify, there are always expectations in a relationship, right? I expect you to act in a RIGHT way and you expect me to act in a RIGHT way and we both hope that those expectations are satisfied in some way, shape, or form.
Husbands have expectations of wives.
Wives of husbands.
Children of parents.
Bosses of workers.
Friends of friends.
Righteousness does not refer to an ethical quality of a person. It does not mean any quality at all, but a relationship. That is, DIKAIOSYNE (that’s the Greek word for RIGHTEOUSNESS) is not something a person has as his/her own; rather it is something that he has in the verdict of the forum to which he is accountable. It’s about longing for God to pronounce the verdict ‘RIGHTEOUS’ as His decision over them in the judgment.”
And so righteousness or SADAQA or DIKAIOSYNE doesn’t refer to my ability to be good or right or perfect or amazing, but to my desire for God (in my relationship with Him) to declare me as good and right and to see my behavior and conduct as such.
So Jesus (in Beatitude #4) is saying that …
The people who hunger and thirst.
(As a dying man in a desert thirsts for water and hungers for food.)
For God’s pronouncement of them being right and good and just.
… That person, says Jesus, will be filled.
(5) And so that begs the question, “what does it mean to be FILLED?”
Well, if you long to be declared righteous by God and you long for SADAQA, all you need to do is open up your Bible, read a few verses, and receive.
You see, the MAKARIOS person or the person who has an internal sense of happiness or joy is the one who hungers and thirsts for God’s verdict of approval and is guaranteed to be filled because the Words of God towards him (and every other human being on the planet) are ones of love and grace and approval and he can (therefore) fill himself up with those words as opposed to the (very often) negative words of his surrounding community.
Because he knows.
That the very thing he hungers for.
That the very thing he thirsts for.
Comes with a never-ending abundance from His ever-loving God.
All of that to say, are you happy today? Are you joyful? I’m sure you, like me, long for God to pronounce His favor over your life and to fill your ears with the reassuring words that you are loved and accepted and never alone in this life. The Good News is that God has given His words in the form of the the Bible and it’s filled with glimpses of His love for you and for me.
And so whenever you’re feeling …
Hungry for His love.
Thirsty for His words.
Starving for Him to declare you good.
Dying to know that His heart towards you is good.
… All you need to do is open up your Bible and read some of these verses.
Here they are. Read them. Dwell on them. Claim them.
Zephaniah 3:17 – The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exalt over you with loud singing.
1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 John 3:1 – See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
John 15:9 – As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
There are many more, of course, but those will get you started.
Are you hungry? And thirsty? Longing to hear God pronounce you as good and holy and approved? Open up your Bible, read it, and be filled.
Have a great week!
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